2002-04-06 / Community

Funds Requested To Open Dubos Point Creeks

Funds Requested To Open Dubos Point Creeks

"With saucer magnolias already starting to blossom and a small yellow/green butterfly already fluttering about in the Arverne Renewal Area, so will be the mosquito swarms early this season," states Bernard J. Blum, the President of a local environmental group called Friends of Rockaway, Inc.

Since the Dubos Point wetlands Park was inaugurated in 1987 "nothing significant has been done by the NYC Parks Department nor the past manager, The NYC Audubon Society, to improve conditions for mosquito-free passive recreation," according to Blum. While local people have focused on cleanups and had mosquito-magnets installed to stem the mosquito swarm that plague the park in the warm months of the year, Friends of Rockaway has focused on the aspect of wetlands area management called "Open Marsh Water Management."

By this approach tidal flow is restored to blocked creeks that hold stagnant water where the swarms are generated. Then killifish swim in to feed on the mosquito larvae, which are also washed out with the exchange of tides. The tidal exchange also restores the wetlands so that the tall reed Phragmites is replaced by the true salt marsh grasses, the Spartinas of the lower and upper marsh. These tolerate the saltier conditions and foundation that the tall reed doesn’t.

Last year the State chose five wetland sites that the Parks Department had applied for in the ‘Environmental Quality Bond Act of 1996 pot of funds’ and ignored Blum’s pleas that Dubos Point be included. The State has a Damages Account pot (due to lawsuits over hazardous waste dumping in City Land Fills) and there are others that the Department of State controls.

"The funds are out there," insists Blum, and it’s a matter of focusing public and officialdom attention on this.

The US Army Corps of Engineers is the agency that has listed Dubos Point for restoration/mosquito control after a scientist of the agency toured the mosquito swamps with Blum. Communication revealed that it would not be before 2005 or later that work would be performed contingent on Congressional approval of Corps programs. Previously the date was revealed as 2004 and the Department of Health of NYC provided a date of 2003.

Actually all that has to happen is for NYC Parks Department to apply for 2002 Bond Act Funding as a local sponsor. The Corps of Engineers can "dredge up" special funds from pots that bypass the usual procedure. Other sites have been given a speeded-up scheduling. "It’s about time (pun intended) – like nineteen years after the inauguration that City/State/Federal agencies collaborate to this year to restore the Dubos Point wetlands and reduce the mosquito population," according to Blum.

Reportedly, the State and City agencies involved will tour Dubos Point at the end of March/early April to determine damage done in a clean-up operation of 2000, and what is necessary to fix it. A tidal wetlands violation is the issue, and even brush and ancient cherry trees were bulldozed down. So the tour is just in time for funding procedures to get going.

Blum suggests that local officials and The Parks Department should be written to for Bond Act and other funds. "I have typed up zillions of letters to get attention and funds, and it’s amazing how agencies ignore the plight of a suffering public when such a simple solution has been available. It’s just another Rockaway mystery for historians to figure out," he lamented.

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